Thursday, September 15, 2011

Potato Galette or How Cook's Illustrated Makes Me Happy & Drives Me Nuts

La Galette Of My Dreams
Cook's Illustrated.

I know there are those of you who read this that just LOVE this magazine. The explanations, the food science, the perfect recipes.  I also know there are those who are IRRATIONALLY ANNOYED by the fussiness of these recipes.  I can't blame you. (Though in the interest of full disclosure, I *heart* CI.)  Those 12 extra steps in a recipe can take something so simple and make it into a huge, messy, how-did-you-dirty-all-these-dishes-honey ordeal.

But what a TASTY ordeal.

So, with that caveat, I give you Potato Galette, annotated by me. Make this recipe as you will. Follow it to the letter, or improvise. Do some of the steps but not the others. My experience with CI recipes is that if you follow them exactly, they consistently yield superb, irresistible, unbeatable results.  However, if you don't, they almost always turn out something pretty tasty anyhow. 

But whatever you do, make this. Like RIGHT NOW.  At its heart, this is a giant potato pie that is singing a hard-rock love ballad to your cast iron skillet.  Crispy, browned, crusty potatoes complemented by the sweet, buttery interior slices: holy cow. Top with a mushroom and white wine pan sauce. Or throw an over-easy egg on top. Or carmelized onions. Or sour cream. I could go on and on...

Potato Galette
adapted from Cook's Illustrated, annotated by Megan

  • 2.5 lbs potatoes (relatively starchy, like Yukon Golds. I used Horse & Buggy Produce's white potatoes from last week), scrubbed & sliced 1/8 inch thick. The thinner the better. If you have a mandoline, use it. I worked with a chef's knife.
  • 5 tbls butter, melted (yippee!)
  • 1 tbls cornstarch 
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary or sage or 3/4 tsp chopped fresh thyme or something else delicious (cayenne pepper? adobo seasoning? chili powder? go nuts!)

1. Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees.  Place sliced potatoes in a large bowl and fill with water. Swirl around a bit to wash off the surface starch on the potatoes and then drain in a colander, and dry on towels.  (This step is probably skippable if you're short on time.  Rinsing the starch and drying means browner, crispier potatoes that stick together better. If you're going to skip it, definitely DRY your potatoes for better stickability. Yep. You heard me. Stickability.)

2. Whisk 4 tablespoons of the butter, cornstarch, salt, pepper, and herbs together in a large bowl. Toss dried potatoes in and coat. Pour the remaining butter in an oven-safe 10 inch skillet (cast iron is gorgeous here, but if not use an ovensafe non-stick) and swirl to coat. Place 1 potato in the center and layer slices in concentric circles, until the bottom is covered. After that, arrange the rest of the slices for even thickness but unceremoniously. (I think the CI article actually uses the verb "dump".)

3. Put the skillet over medium-high heat and cook until sizzling and potatoes at the enge start to turn translucent, about 5 minutes. 

*Optional fussiness that is totally worth it*
Spray a 12 inch square of foil with non-stick cooking spray, put it oiled side down on top of the pan and grab a 9 inch cake pan. Fill it with 2 cups of pie weights or dried beans, put in top of the foil and press down. The deal here is that you're trying to get the potatoes to stick to one another as the bake in the oven, so that when you cut the galette, it serves up in neat slices.  Don't have pie weights or a cake pan or that just seems like a pain in the tail? Don't worry about it.
Transfer skillet to oven (with cake pan if you're using it) and back for 20 minutes.

4. Remove the cake pan if you're using it, and the foil.  Continue baking in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until the center of the galette is tender when poked with a paring knife. 

*** Editor's note: 
Put on your oven mitts.  Seriously. Already poor Robin from Semi Organic Life already scorched herself during this recipe, and I can't abide any more terrible accidents on my account, just remember. The handle is gonna be hot, hot,  hot, when you take it out of the oven. You'll need mitts to handle it for the rest of the recipe. Just put 'em on and keep 'em on folks. ***

5. With your oven mitts ON, return skillet to medium heat on the stovetop and gently shake the pan until it releases form the sides, 2-3 minutes.  (This didn't work for me. I just ran a paring knife around the edge of the skillet.)

6. Off heat, place a cutting board or large plate over the skillet. With double-fisted oven mitts, put one hand on the skillet handle, the other on the cutting board, and FLIP IT (boldly! with feeling!).  Lift the skillet off, slice with a serrated or extremely sharp knife, and serve.  If this scares the bejeezus out of you, don't worry about it.  Just slice while its in the skillet, and serve from the skillet itself.  

Enjoy this deliciousness! Thursday is my produce day, so there should be something more delicious coming soon...

*** P.S. : I have a crappy camera. I have crappy light in my kitchen. I am sorry my pictures are so crappy.  I promise, I'm working on it. Just bear with me until I am a less crappy photographer. ***


  1. Love it and I will be cooking this sometime in the next few days!!! I miss you so much and your wonderful food ramblings.....meaning, I am SOOOOO glad that you started this blog. I honestly was thinking last night, "I must tell Megan to start a food blog, if for no other reason than selfishness."

  2. thanks Emma! I just realized that I've committed a cardinal novice food writer faux pas: I used the word delicious like, 20 times in this post. Twice in one sentence. I need a swear jar, but for over-used food descriptors.